Understanding How God Speaks
Temporary Residents • What would you think if I told you that you were an alien? • Not the extraterrestrial kind but the biblical kind. • To be an alien, in the biblical sense, is to belong to another land. • It’s the idea that our ultimate citizenship belongs to another Kingdom, to another King.
Pilgrim Aliens • The Bible consistently teaches that Christians are sojourners, traveling from one world to the next. • God has given His Word to His traveling pilgrims and in it we discover: • how to travel, • where to travel, and • the ways in which we can bring others along on the journey. • But the Scriptures must be interpreted correctly in order for it to make sense.
UnderstandingUnderstanding How God Speaks Today we will explore four different genres of Scripture that help us interpret God's Word responsibly. By focusing on these four styles of writing, we can acquire the principles and guidelines needed to understand not only a particular passage of Scripture but also how that passage fits into the overarching narrative of God's plan of redemption. • Interpreting Historical Narrative (Gen. 30:1-6) • Interpreting Wisdom Literature (Prov. 22:6, 26:4-5) • Interpreting Prophecy (Joel 2:28-32) • Interpreting Letters (Gal. 1:1-7)
Interpreting Historical Narrative Genesis 30:1-6 1When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she envied her sister. "Give me sons, or I will die!" she said to Jacob. 2Jacob became angry with Rachel and said, "Am I in God's place, who has withheld children from you?“ 3Then she said, "Here is my slave Bilhah. Go sleep with her, and she'll bear children for me so that through her I too can build a family." 4So Rachel gave her slave Bilhah to Jacob as a wife, and he slept with her. 5Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6Rachel said, "God has vindicated me; yes, He has heard me and given me a son," and she named him Dan.
Dangers of MisinterpretingHistorical Narrative • What would be some improper interpretations of applications of the passage we just read? • What’s the difference between description and prescription? • How can confusion of these lead to faulty and even dangerous conclusions?
Historical NarrativePrinciples to Keep in Mind • There are three primary kinds of context for a story that need to be understood for historical narrative. • Immediate context—words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs immediately surrounding the text. • Remote context—the chapters and sections surrounding the text. • Historical context—the historical setting in which the biblical text was written.
Interpreting Wisdom Literature 6Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. 4Don't answer a fool according to his foolishness, or you'll be like him yourself. 5Answer a fool according to his foolishness, or he'll become wise in his own eyes. Proverbs 22:6 Proverbs 26:4-5
Dangers of MisinterpretingWisdom Literature • Wisdom literature must be interpreted in accordance with its purpose–misinterpreting it can point us in the wrong direction, away from a life that honors and glorifies God. • For example, interpreting the proverbs as promises is a critical mistake that can fuel legalism, moralism, and disillusionment. • While a proverb is generally true; it is not a fail-safe promise in every situation. Can you think of any other proverb that is generally true and yet not applicable to every circumstance?
Wisdom LiteraturePrinciples to Keep in Mind • Proverbs are general truths that are not to be interpreted as true all the time in every situation. • Wisdom literature incorporates poetry and figurative language. • Negative illustrations teach just as much as positive ones. • The psalms should be interpreted within their categories and subheadings. • God is involved even in the nitty-gritty of everyday life.
Interpreting Prophecy Joel 2:28-32 28After this I will pour out My Spirit on all humanity; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will have dreams, and your young men will see visions. 29I will even pour out My Spirit on the male and female slaves in those days. 30I will display wonders in the heavens and on the earth: blood, fire, and columns of smoke. 31The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and awe-inspiring Day of the Lord comes. 32Then everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved, for there will be an escape for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, as the Lord promised, among the survivors the Lord calls.
Dangers of MisinterpretingProphecy • Before the genre of prophecy is applied to our lives it must first be contextualized. It is important to seek our what a prophet originally intended to say to his own generation (forthtelling) before exploring what the prophet said about the future (foretelling). Does the name Harold Camping ring a bell? He is the “prophet” who predicted that Christ would return on May 22, 2011. His predictions was based on a flawed understanding of prophecy.
ProphecyPrinciples to Keep in Mind • Seek to discover the original message of the prophet in his immediate context. • Expect figurative language. • Be aware of themes in prophecy, such as a call to the covenant, to social justice, and for faithfulness from the remnant of God’s people. • Do not assume that all prophecy has been fulfilled. • Test modern-day prophesies against the truthfulness and coherency of Scripture.
Interpreting Letters Galatians 1:1-7 1Paul, an apostle—not from men or by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead— 2and all the brothers who are with me: To the churches of Galatia. 3Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. 5To whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 6I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from Him who called you by the grace of Christ, and are turning to a different gospel— 7not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to change the good news about the Messiah.
Misunderstanding & Disobedience • In essence, the churches of Galatia thought that simply obeying the law was enough. They did not understand that God desires more than outward obedience, He desires inward transformation that results in outward obedience. Their misunderstanding led to their disobedience. • What are some ways in which ancient letters are different than the letters we write today? • How does knowledge of ancient letter-writing help us understand the New Testament letters?
Dangers of MisinterpretingLetters • The genre of letters cannot be understood rightly until it is properly contextualized because some teachings in the Bible are culturally mandated to specific audiences. • Paul’s teaching that a women’s head should be covered is a good example—he was really talking about modesty not hair length because the prostitutes of his day identified their self by displaying their long hair in public. • Can you think of any examples of culturally mandated teachings in the New Testament?
LettersPrinciples to Keep in Mind • Seek to discover who wrote the letter. • Seek to discover to whom it was written and why. • Investigate the historical context of the audience of the letter. • Consider the structure, sections, main points, and the themes of the letter. • Determine whether the passage is culturally mandated. If so, seek to understand the principles behind the passage, and apply them to your own circumstances.
Jesus is Our Guide • Do you remember the story about the two men traveling by foot from Jerusalem to Emmaus? What happened? • This story helps to illustrate that God’s people were never meant to walk in this world alone. We are pilgrims who require God’s guidance. • When it comes to interpreting the Word of God, Jesus does not leave us to ourselves. He joins us in our pilgrimages—He escorts us to eternity—and shows us how to correctly read the Scripture. • We can rightly interpret Scripture by allowing Jesus to be our God through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Understanding How God Speaks